We are pleased to announce that this year’s Churches Winter Night Shelters will open on Monday 2nd December.
This joint partnership between HARP, Love Southend and Southend-on-Sea Borough Council is now in its ninth year, adds around 20 extra sleeping spaces per night for rough sleepers in the local area, as churches across Southend open their doors for one night a week each from 2nd December 2019 to 29th March 2020.
As well as providing a hot meal and a warm, safe place to sleep, the project aims to help people move off the streets in the long-term, by providing links to relevant agencies in the town. HARP, Southend’s homeless charity, manages referrals and ensure that users of the service sign up to a simple action plan to address their needs.
Last year, 156 people were given a place to sleep for at least one night over the winter season, and 67% of those who were referred by HARP to the Church Shelters did not return to the streets by the time the Shelters closed for the season.
As it stands, the shelters will open with facilities available on every night except Tuesdays, with every effort being made to add a Tuesday night venue as soon as possible.
“We were hoping to launch this year’s scheme with all seven nights covered and, although this hasn’t been possible, we decided it is important to open with the venues we already have whilst we continue with our talks to find the final venue for Tuesday evenings,” said John Simmons, co-ordinator of the Southend Churches Winter Night Shelter scheme. “We invite any churches or other organisations who feel they might be able to provide a venue or Volunteer Shelter Manager for Tuesdays to step forward as soon as possible, even if this is just temporarily while we find a longer term solution.”
Anyone who is rough sleeping and wants to make use of the Churches Winter Night Shelters must be referred via HARP’s Bradbury Day Centre, 103-107 York Road, Southend-on-Sea, between 9am and 1pm, Monday to Friday. Full details of which churches are open on each evening will be provided to service users upon referral.
HARP’s Service Operations Manager, Gary Turner, said: “The Southend Churches Winter Night Shelters partnership is an excellent example of what happens when different agencies, faith groups and members of the public come together to help some of society’s most vulnerable people. It is an important part of our work helping local people to overcome homelessness for good. We would like to thank all the churches and individuals who make this happen every year.”
Simon Leftley, deputy chief executive at Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, said: “We are still working hard and doing all we can to find a location for Tuesday nights. No-one wants to see anyone sleeping outside during the cold winter months. If you or any organisation you know, might be able to help, please get in touch. We have our fantastic volunteers we just need a suitable place.
“The scheme has grown over the years and become an important part of the town’s provision for rough sleepers, with figures showing how it can make a lasting impact on some of our rough sleepers. This only happens thanks to partnership working and our amazing volunteers who give so much of their time to make sure the shelters are open, staffed and that help is there for those who need it most.”
To put yourself forward to be a Volunteer Shelter Manager or provide a venue on a Tuesday night, or to help out as a volunteer at one of the existing church shelters, please contact John Simmons, Southend Churches Winter Night Shelters Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07483 825298.
UPDATE: A venue has been found for the Tuesdays of 24th December (Christmas Eve) and 31st December (New Year's Eve).